Dog Bite Injuries

No one loves dogs more than the attorneys at Dross Berman LLC.  Unfortunately a dog bite or dog attack can lead to serious injury, and in rare instances, even death.  If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, the owner may be financially responsible for your injuries.

Are injuries from dog attacks common?

More common than you would think.  In 2015, 35 Americans were killed by a dog, and over 850,000 people receive medical treatment as a result of a dog attack.  Despite the high number of dog attacks, only 15,000-16,000 people receive compensation.  The average compensation for a dog bite is approximately $29,000.00.  The value of your dog attack claim is dependent on many factors.

Dog Bite Wound

Dog Bite Injury

Who pays for dog bite claims?

Most people do not realize that a homeowners or renter’s insurance policy will cover a dog bite claim.  If you have been bitten, obtaining the dog owner’s insurance policy is an important first step in receiving compensation.

Under what circumstances can I receive compensation for a dog bite injury?

Simply being bitten may not be enough to receive financial compensation.  To recover for a dog bite injury, the victim must prove that the dog’s owner was negligent.  There are several ways to prove negligence, and each dog bite presents a unique set of circumstances.  Some ways a dog owner may be negligent include:

  • The dog is in public without a leash.
  • The dog has a history of biting or aggression.
  • The owner fails to supervise their dog around a young child.
  • The owner fails to control their dog who is exhibiting aggressive behavior.
  • The landlord knew a dangerous dog was on their premises, but failed to evict or remove the owner.

Is it true that there is a “one bite” rule?

A common misconception of dog bite claims is that a dog owner gets “one free bite”.  In other words, unless the dog has bitten before, you will not be able to recover for your injuries.  This is not the case.  Each state has separate and unique dog bite laws, and it is very important that you retain an attorney who understands the differences.

Maryland

Maryland imposes a “strict liability” policy on dog bites.  However, the dog owner will not be responsible for the dog bite if they can prove that they did not know, or should have known that their dog was dangerous.  The burden of proof is on the dog owner to establish that they did not know their dog was dangerous.  Further, if the dog was “at large”, meaning not on a leash, the owner is held strictly liable for the injury.

Some counties in Maryland, such as Prince Georges County, have breed restrictions, and do not allow its residents to own a pit bull.

District of Columbia

The District of Columbia requires the victim to prove that the dog owner was negligent, the dog was at-large, or the dog had bitten someone previously.

Virginia

Like the District of Columbia, Virginia does not have a “strict liability” statute and requires a victim to prove negligence to recover for a dog bite.  Virginia dog owners are required to know their dog’s propensities and prevent foreseeable harm.

If the owner of a dog knows, or should know, that his dog might cause injury, he has a duty to use ordinary care to prevent injury to others. If an owner fails to perform this duty, then he is negligent.

Further, the owner of a dog must take notice of its general, natural inclinations or characteristics and of the inclinations or characteristics, if any, peculiar to the animal in this case that he knows about or should have known about. If any of those inclinations or characteristics are of a kind likely to cause injury, the owner has a duty to use ordinary care to prevent any reasonably foreseeable injury. If an owner fails to perform this duty, then he is negligent.

How do you prove a dog owner was negligent?

Hiring the right attorney to investigate and prove negligence is an important first step in recovering for a dog bite injury.  There are several ways to prove that the dog owner was negligent, including, but not limited to:

  • Obtaining the “bite report” or incident report from the police department or local animal control agency.
  • Finding out the dog’s history from the dog’s owner.
  • Speaking to neighbors about their observations of the dog in the past.
  • Detailing and documenting the incident in writing.
  • Obtaining the medical history of the dog through its veterinarian.
  • Obtaining obedience/training school records if they exist.
  • Medical reports concerning treatment of the injuries.
  • Obtaining witness statements.

What injuries do people who are bitten by a dog typically suffer?

We have seen shockingly serious injuries caused by a dog bite or attack.  These can include:

  • Puncture wounds
  • Cuts and bruising
  • Loss of fingers
  • Scarring
  • Broken bones
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Infections

Victims of dog bite injuries may be entitled to receive compensation for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement or scarring
  • Emotional distress
  • Future medical treatment for scar revisions

If you or a loved one have been bitten by a dog, please contact the attorneys at Dross Berman LLC for a free consultation.